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Steve Flowers wins unanimous vote of Grove Hill Book Club

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories by Steve Flowers

Of Goats & Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories author Steve Flowers “accomplished something phenomenal” when he spoke to the Grove Hill, AL Book Club on June 24, says Annell Gordon, who coordinated his visit. “He took the sensitive topic of politics and made it a fun conversation — a real rarity in these divisive times.”

While visiting Grove Hill, Flowers chatted with radio talk show host Deborah Rankins (The Rankins Files), who said, “I applaud him for preserving Alabama’s colorful political history with such great humor. Generations to come will enjoy his stories.” Added Gordon, “Several of our book club members have said they wished Steve would run for governor. Two or three have even offered to help him campaign.” Now there’s an idea!

Steve Flowers signing Of Goats & Governors for Deborah Rankins

Steve Flowers signing Of Goats & Governors for Deborah Rankins

Annell Gordon, Deborah Rankins, Jim Herod (Book Club President), Steve Flowers, Jim Cox (Editor, Clarke County Democrat), and Linda Vice (Director of Tourism for Rural Southwest Alabama)

Annell Gordon, Deborah Rankins, Jim Herod (Book Club President), Steve Flowers,
Jim Cox (Editor, Clarke County Democrat), and Linda Vice (Director of Tourism for Rural Southwest Alabama)

Of Goats & Governors is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Alan Cross applauds Southern Baptist decision on Confederate Flag

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus by Alan Cross

The Religion News Service quoted Alan Cross, author of When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus, in an article on the resolution passed by the Southern Baptist Convention calling on Christians to cease displaying the Confederate battle flag.

Cross called the decision “the most wonderful surprise, a complete denunciation of the flag because of what it represents and because of the Southern symbol that it is to African American brothers and sisters in Christ.” Please join NewSouth Books in celebrating this moving and meaningful development.

When Heaven and Earth Collide is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

In wake of Orlando, Rheta Grimsley Johnson talks coming out in the South

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the SouthRheta Grimsley Johnson speaks truth to power in her newest column, published in the Daily Corinthian among other newspapers. In the wake of the tragic shooting in Orlando, Johnson notes the particular danger that LGBT Southerners face being out in the South, both from hate groups and from legislation that targets LGBT citizens.

In a column entitled “Coming out in the South is no walk in the park” Johnson cites the anthology Crooked Letter i: Coming out in the South, recently published by NewSouth Books, saying, “The true stories in Crooked Letter i have one thing in common: They all are heart-rending. Edited by Connie Griffin, they deal with the moment — or, in some cases, moments — these Southern members of the LGBT community first told kin, friends or the world the truth about themselves.”

Johnson berates “hate-mongers” and legislators for targeting LGBT taxpayers, but also observes, “Once your grandmother is in the loop, has pulled you to her accepting bosom, then winning the approval of backward, hypocritical, ignorant and often crooked politicians doesn’t much matter. Those guilty lawmakers will have to live with themselves.”

Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s books Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana, Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming, and Hank Hung the Moon . . . And Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts are available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Wiktionary cites novelist John Pritchard on unusual word

Monday, June 13th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Sailing to Alluvium by John PritchardLeland Shaw, the shell-shocked World War II veteran featured in the novels Junior Ray, The Yazoo Blues, and Sailing to Alluvium by John Pritchard, “never hesitates to warp and work a word to his uses” according to Pritchard, who claims — in Sailing to Alluvium — that the word “smiteful” just fell out of Shaw’s mouth as he, Pritchard, was transcribing the character’s journals.

Editors of Wiktionary, the “lexical companion to Wikipedia,” took note and included the Sailing to Alluvium reference in the dictionary’s entry for the word “smiteful.”

When Pritchard was asked what Leland Shaw might think about the Wiktionary citation, Pritchard quoted a “telepathogram” he received from Shaw that said, “The entry’s value is predicated entirely upon the notion that we shall always have electricity.”

Sailing to Alluvium is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookseller.

MOWA Native Americans celebrate their rich quilting tradition at Common Threads symposium

Monday, June 6th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

They Say the Wind is Red by Jackie MatteThe MOWA band of Choctaw Indians held a quilting workshop on April 30. The event recognized exemplary quilters as part of the “Common Threads” series on quilting in Alabama sponsored by the Alabama Folklife Association. “Common Threads” honors Alabama’s quilting tradition through a series of workshops, arts-based development, and education in the traditional arts.

Jackie Matte, author of They Say the Wind is Red: The Alabama Choctaw — Lost in Their Own Land, spoke to tribal members about their rich history in handcrafts. In the photo featured see Elois Taylor presenting a quilt to Polly Rivers and Chief Lebaron Byrd.

The MOWA band of Choctaw refused to relocate during the forced removal of Native Americans known as the “trail of tears.” They Say the Wind is Red tells their story of the tribe’s resistance and history of pride, endurance, and persistence in the face of abhorrent conditions imposed on them by the US government. Fortunately for the state of Alabama, the tribe has endured and can now share with everyone the crafting traditions they have maintained through the years.

They Say the Wind is Red is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Frye Gaillard remembers songwriter Guy Clark

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Watermelon Wine: The Spirit of Country Music by Frye Gaillard

Award-winning historian Frye Gaillard was one of the first music writers to take note of Nashville songwriter Guy Clark, who died yesterday after a long illness. Frye remembers Clark in this tribute:

With sadness, I take a few moments to add my voice to what will soon be hundreds of others lamenting the passing of Guy Clark, one of Nashville’s finest songwriters. I still remember like it happened yesterday the night in 1975 when I wandered into the Exit Inn in Nashville and saw Guy Clark as an opening act. I had never heard of him. Neither had anybody else. But on this night he sang the songs from his soon-to-be released debut album, “Ol’ Number One,” and there’s never been a better record in the history of country/Americana music. I had the honor of writing about Guy Clark in my first book, Watermelon Wine: The Spirit of Country Music, trying to capture and explain the power of his lyrics — the exceptional empathy, sensitivity, and compassion they contained. Then and now, I understood that I was coming up short. But that was okay because soon enough people were listening to the songs themselves, and Clark became an Americana icon. Rest in peace, old friend. Thank you for those good conversations.

Watermelon Wine is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

The Integration of Tuskegee High School: new play highlights role in history played by attorney Fred Gray

Thursday, April 28th, 2016 by Brian Seidman

Legendary civil rights attorney Fred Gray has received accolades from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, American Bar Association, and the NAACP, among many others. Now he is honored with a play that brings the history related to the integration of the Tuskegee High School, with which he was much involved, to dramatic life. Written and directed by Dr. Tessa Carr on the faculty at Auburn University and presented by the Mosaic Theatre Company, The Integration of Tuskegee High School tells the story of Attorney Gray’s role in the pivotal 1963 desegregation lawsuit.

Civil rights attorney Fred Gray and London Carlisle, the actor who plays Gray in The Integration of Tuskegee High School

Civil rights attorney Fred Gray and London Carlisle, the actor who plays Gray in The Integration of Tuskegee High School.

The play was the inspiration of Dr. Mark Wilson at Auburn’s Carolyn Marshall Draughon Center, who believed that a series of interviews with students and community leaders who had lived through school desegregation would be a good basis for a dramatic work. Dr. Carr, Artistic Director of the Mosaic Theatre Company, was equally inspired in the writing of it. In her research she says she was struck by the extraordinary difference in the experiences of Caucasian and African American students involved in the events. It was her aim, she told Auburn University’s Perspectives “to put their voices in conversation — voices that had never had the opportunity to be in conversation before.”

The play was first performed in 2014. The new production includes the voice of Attorney Gray as a guiding narrator. After the premiere, Dr. Mark Wilson told The Plainsman it was so powerful he was left speechless. He noted that the performance would be available for online viewing.

Attorney Gray attended a special invitation-only performance on April 16, where he met London Carlisle, the actor playing himself. In an interview with the Opelika-Auburn News, Gray wryly remarked, “The stage presentation was a good enactment of quite a bit of what you just didn’t see in every day life.” After the performance, Attorney Gray told the Plainsman, “We still have a lot of problems. We need to work on them and not take 50 more years to solve them.”

Fred Gray’s memoir, Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System, The Life and Works of Fred Gray, is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Historian Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton remembered by Leah Rawls Atkins

Thursday, April 21st, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Teddy's Child by Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton

Alabama lost one of its most distinguished historians with the death of Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton. NewSouth Books was proud to have published the final memoir of this pioneering journalist and educator, Teddy’s Child: Growing Up in the Anxious Southern Gentry Between the Great Wars. Dr. Hamilton’s life was as colorful and inspiring as any history she taught. Distinguished historian Leah Rawls Atkins remembered the influential professor in a piece for Alabama NewsCenter, calling Dr. Hamilton one of the “finest teachers and role models for young women interested in studying history.”

Dr. Atkins lists the remarkable details of Hamilton’s career: Associated Press correspondent in Washington, D.C. during World War II, Birmingham News reporter, history professor at Birmingham-Southern, the University of Montevallo, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the University of Alabama, author of numerous books of history and memoir. She focuses on Hamilton’s legacy as a pioneer — the second woman to earn a PhD in history from the University of Alabama — and a historian who presented a unique take on Alabama history in her innovative text Alabama: A History, which recounts the stories of sociological groups who most impacted the state.

Dr. Atkins notes: “Hamilton changed the way history was taught in Alabama. . . . She advocated for the equality of women in history, and capped her career directing a departmental faculty at UAB that was roughly half male and half female — more closely matching the true ratio of men and women in the population. Young women in Alabama in 2016 may not realize who influenced the greater professional equality they now enjoy. Virginia Van deer Hamilton played a large role in that history.”

A fitting tribute to a remarkable woman. We mourn her passing but celebrate her legacy.

Teddy’s Child is available from NewSouth Books.

Frye Gaillard named 2016 Eugene Current-Garcia Award winner

Friday, April 15th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Our good friend and esteemed author Frye Gaillard has just won the Eugene Current-Garcia Distinguished Scholar Award, which was presented at the Alabama Writers Symposium, held annually in Monroeville. The award recognizes “scholarly reflection and writing on literary topics.” Nominations for the award are made by recognized scholars in the field and reflect the respect of the winner’s peers in the academic community.

This award is the latest for Frye, one of the most respected journalist-historians working in the Southeast today. His previous honors include the Lillian Smith Award for non-fiction, the Clarence Cason Award for non-fiction, and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year Award.

Frye Gaillard wins Eugene Current-Garcia Distinguished Scholar Award

From left: Alisha Linam, Director of the Alabama Center for Literary Arts; Roger Chandler, President of Alabama Southern Community College; Al Head, Executive Director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts; Dr. Edward O. Wilson, 2016 Harper Lee Award Winner; Frye Gaillard, 2016 Eugene Current-Garcia Award Winner; Armand DeKeyser, Executive Director of the Alabama Humanities Foundation; and Jeanie Thompson, Executive Director of the Alabama Writers Forum.

Frye continues a limited tour presenting about his recently released book, Journey to the Wilderness: War, Memory, and a Southern Family’s Civil War Letters — a powerful work that is a personal inquiry into how the Civil War has shaped our Southern identity. He is one of NewSouth’s most in-demand speakers. A writer in residence at the University of South Alabama, Frye is the author of more than twenty books, including The Books That Mattered: A Reader’s Memoir and Watermelon Wine, both published by NewSouth, and Cradle of Freedom: Alabama and the Movement That Changed America.

Look for Frye’s first book for middle-schoolers, Go South to Freedom, coming this fall from NewSouth Books. The book retells a story he heard from an elderly friend, the great-grandson of slaves, that has never been published before.

Congratulations, Frye, and continued publishing success!

Journey to the Wilderness, The Books That Mattered, and Watermelon Wine are all available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Richmond Times-Dispatch recaps highlights of Ross Howell Jr.’s Library of Virginia event

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Forsaken by Ross Howell

Michael Paul Williams of the Richmond Times-Dispatch offers a stunning interview with Ross Howell Jr. about the writing of the historical novel Forsaken. Williams noted that he “had the pleasure of introducing” Howell at the Library of Virginia. The piece includes insight from Howell on why he created the narrator Charlie Mears to tell the story of executed juvenile Virginia Christian, and the relevance of her story to the Black Lives Matter movement today.

Williams quotes Howell as having a moment in which he imagined Oprah Winrey interviewing him about how he as a white male could have insight into the person of Virginia Christian. Having created a character with which to view the story of the young girl’s trial and execution, Howell was able to further explore the affect of racism on whites as well as blacks in early twentieth-century America. He noted that the residue of that racism is still with us into the twenty-first century:

“Today, we have more young black males incarcerated than at any time of our history. … We’ve seen videos of unarmed black men and boys being killed by police officers with such frequency that it’s mind-numbing. Virgie Christian’s life and death were shaped by the fear and hate of one race for another. I saw it a half-century ago. And now, a century after the girl’s death, we see fear and hate are with us still. What I hope for this novel is that readers will take away empathy and the firm resolve to honor human rights and human dignity.”

The story highlights the research Howell did at the Library of Virginia and provides a link to the digital bibliography for the book created there. The bibliography is the gift of senior archivist Roger Christman, whose own insights into the history are beautifully captured in a recent blog posting on the Library of Virginia website.

Forsaken is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite book retailer.